Authorities in North Carolina said a nurse at the Freedom House Recovery Center was fatally stabbed by a patient undergoing treatment at the behavioral health care facility. According to WRAL, the fatal incident occurred on October 18.
And police said they responded to the scene after they received a disturbance call. Upon arrival, they found June Onkundi with stab wounds. She was subsequently transported to a hospital where she succumbed to her injuries.
The suspect, identified as James Gomes, remained at the crime scene following the fatal incident. Responding officers subsequently arrested him. The 47-year-old, who is being held without bond, has since been charged with first-degree murder.
“We are heartbroken by the senseless death of our colleague and fellow NCNA member, June Onkundi,” North Carolina Nurses Association President Meka Ingram said in a statement.
“Our prayers go out to her friends and family. She dedicated her life to helping others and we should all be proud of the positive impact she had on some of the most vulnerable patients. Her loss has shaken the nursing profession throughout North Carolina.
“Violence in the workplace is one of the greatest challenges facing nurses, and the problem has grown exponentially over the last few years. It is my desperate hope that June Onkundi’s death serves as a turning point and that those of us in healthcare can truly begin to address this problem.”
A family member who spoke with the news outlet said the deceased woman was a mental health nurse practitioner at the Freedom House Recovery Center. The family member also said that the suspect was Onkundi’s patient.
Gomes has five previous convictions linked to violence against women. The judge denied him bond because of that history.
“The same very population that she was the passion and desire to help, is the one that finally took her away from us and left us grieving with four children and a husband,” the victim’s brother, Andrew Nyabwari, told ABC 11.
The cousin of Onkundi’s husband, Onditi Nunda, also described the deceased nurse as a family woman. “She was somebody who values family very much. Everything that she would do is family-centered. That is what I’m going to remember about her,” Nunda said.
“To then come back and work within this mental health community, you know that just basically sees who she was,” Nunda added. “She had a global perspective about (mental health). Obviously this has now been cut short and it’s very, very sad.”
The victim’s relatives also said she was supposed to pursue a doctorate course at Duke next year. Authorities are yet to determine the motive behind the fatal stabbing.
“She wasn’t just some woman,” Nyabwari said. “I’m confused. Because a place of work is supposed to provide the safety mechanisms for the staff members to be safe. Just to make sure another family does not go through what we are going through today.”
A GoFundMe has since been set up to help raise funds for the deceased woman’s family.